Wine critics know what they enjoy; if you agree, follow their lead

October 1, 2012

Howell Mountain is a special place for Cali wine buffs. Frank and Kathy Dotzler, owners of Outpost Wines, had the good sense to hire Thomas Brown as winemaker, and he has been producing some great Zins, Grenaches and Petit Syrah for around 12 years. The microclimate is red rocks, high altitude and west slope. These combine for an October harvest in most vintage years.

The winery employs sustainable farming methods and single-block fermentation, and does not fine or filter. Antonio Galloni, writing in WA, introduced me to these wines recently. The 2007 Grenache was killer. The Outpost Howell Mountain Zin, 2010, 93 points, is just coming into its own this year. You can only get them from the winery. Join their mailing list to get dialed in:

Those who have been looking for a Spanish recommendation should try to locate Baron de Magaña 2007 from Bodegas Viña Magaña in Navarre, a region north of Rioja. Rich, dark-red cherry color; ripe grape, leather, tobacco, vanilla, toast from two years on oak; lots of body, dry and tannic with a long finish where the fruit provides a slightly sweet aftertaste. I say 91 points if priced under $20. The 2005 are closer to drinking peak. May be more difficult for your local wine guy to locate.

On Friday, Barbara and I spent an evening with a large group of longtime friends. The call to gather was in remembrance of our mutual friends Norman and Geneva Sugrue. We gathered at their former home on School Lane for a last-hurrah farewell. The evening was full of memories. Few could entertain like Norman and Geneva. They filled their home with friends, with interests and places of origin that spanned a wide reach. They were the common denominator. Most of us may never realize the scope and depth good friends can provide. This gathering sure brought it home to Barbara and me. RIP, Norman and Geneva.

Just finished a short article headlined Five Wine Myths, Busted or Not? The info was so-so but a fun read. I thought all reading here would be delighted to learn of No. 5, labeled Wine critics know what they are talking about. Synopsized: Most are telling you what they enjoy. If you find one with whom you agree most of the time. stick with him. The only palate that matters is your own. All good stuff. However, sticking with one writer or two is unwise, because you miss out on too much. I am inclined to compartmentalize my gurus into who does best on certain varietals or countries of origin. I admire the palates of several, as frequent readers are aware. All have chinks in their writer/taster armor. All can have a bad day, be impacted by the treatment they receive and a host of inputs not particularly part of criticizing. If they claim they are immune, they are Bidenizing.

Ending this week on an informative, participatory note: Snooth is holding a People’s Voice Award that will run through October. If you go to this address you can read the nominees and if you sign in you can vote: awards. Not yet, please! Make sure you read the entire paper, ads and all, first. If nothing else, you will get an idea what others are thinking and the very wide array of wines in each category that people enjoy. The poll is not scientific but it is definitely informative.